Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Leonids Meteor Shower Coming Up

Meteor showers are a great way to introduce kids to astronomy and introduce them to the joys of looking up at the night sky.  A meteor is a tiny piece of debris/dust that travels into Earth's atmosphere.  During this trip it burns up, producing a brief trail of light.  Meteor showers usually occur when Earth passes through an old comet's tail.  Many pieces of debris/dust pass into Earth's atmosphere, producing more meteors than normal.  These can range from 10 - 1000s of meteors seen per hour.  It's very rare to see a meteor shower with more than 100 meteors per hour, but it does happen.

This coming weekend, on the night of November 16, 2012 and the morning of November 17, 2012, are the Leonids.  The Leonids are the result of Earth passing through the tail of comet Tempel Tuttle.  To find the meteors from the Leonids you want to look toward the constellation of Leo.

The Leonids are usually not very impressive, averaging only 10 - 15 meteors per hour, but this is more than a typical night without a shower.  The good thing this weekend is that the Moon will be below the horizon.  Light from the Moon can flood the sky, limiting the number of visible meteors.  The lack of Moon will give a darker sky and a greater opportunity to observe meteors.  

Have fun!

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